My 96 year-old Mum is in “prison”.
How would you feel if your 96 year-old mother had a stroke for the second time, and you were forbidden to visit her and comfort her while she goes through that scary period of not knowing where she is, or who all these people are poking and prodding her and telling her what to do?
How would you sleep at night, agonising for weeks on end about how she really is – the pain and the worry that nobody knows her like you do – knowing they don’t believe you when you tell them this is not normal for her?
Welcome to Evan and Nici’s life. The three of them were happy, healthy organic farmers, with strong immune systems up until two years ago.
Evan’s bubbly, active, sharp-minded Mum had her first stroke in July 2020 when she was 95 years old. She was admitted to Waikato Hospital, very unwell from an unknown cause, and when it was discovered she had a ruptured bowel, immediately underwent an emergency operation. She didn’t wake up after the operation as she fell into a coma which lasted for five days, during which time she had her first stroke.
For the next two months, Evan and Nici visited her every day in hospital with her favourite things to help her feel love, connection and “regain herself”. Then back at home they nursed her to complete health again over the following year, with the help of visiting Healthcare workers and physiotherapists.
“She was back in her veggie garden, doing lots of baking, dancing with me, playing her ukulele, attending Tepoi CWI, and her most favourite – doing the crossword in the newspaper every day. She was amazing! She had those crosswords bombed in 15 minutes! And she was even back driving her car!
“She was a bouncy lady of 96,” says Evan, fondly.
Then in early August 2021, Evan noticed his Mum acting a “little bit not herself”, and she wasn’t acing those crosswords as usual. He was worried she might have another infection, so he took her to her doctor and he referred her to Waikato Hospital for observation.
At first glance, the doctors didn’t think there was anything wrong with her. “They didn’t believe me when I told them Mum was usually slamming that crossword and dancing around for fun,” he says.
Then the doctors decided she had diabetes, because her blood sugars were a bit high, and put her on 14 units of insulin, and sent her home. Evan says there was really no improvement, and within the week, her care worker found her unconscious in her bed one morning. He phoned the ambulance and she was taken to Waikato Hospital again. The doctors said she’d had another stroke, but she did wake up later that day.
The hospital stopped the insulin, but she was still severely disoriented. Evan and Nici, as usual, visited her every day to share love and stories to help her recovery. A couple of weeks later, the doctors decided she was stable enough to transfer her to a rest home back home in Matamata, but the country was in a level 4 lockdown by that stage.
So Evan’s Mum spent a week in isolation at the hospital, was given a sedative and transferred by ambulance to a rest home back in Matamata, and entered another week’s isolation there. During this time, the rest home staff administered her first Pfizer vaccination, and told Evan not to phone her at all as they could not allow her to use a phone while she was in isolation.
Evan was beside himself by this time, as he knew she would be disoriented and unhappy by waking up in a strange place, and hadn’t had any physical contact with family or friends for two weeks. When he phoned the rest home to organise their first visit, he was told his Mum had to do another week of isolation there.
Of course, he became very upset, challenged their decision to make her undergo more than the required two weeks’ isolation, and they eventually relented. But, unfortunately, that was only the beginning of the rest home’s heavy-handed over-interpretation of the government guidelines.
Evan was told, because of her age and the “covid situation”, they could only visit his mother once a week for no more than 15 mins, and they all had to wear masks the whole time. When they finally allowed him in, he could see his mother had regressed – she had more obvious memory loss again, and would stare blankly at times.
“They showed Nici and I into a room where we sat at one end of a huge, three-metre long table. They wheeled Mum in to the other end of the table, and a nurse stayed in the room. We weren’t allowed to hug Mum, or give her any presents, and the nurse wasted half of our precious time by interrupting us with questions.
“It was just heart-breaking. She wasn’t her happy, usual self at all, but the nurse went on about how much she enjoyed her favourite TV programmes, and her daily cup of Milo…Mum hates Milo!” Evan says with frustration.
“They wouldn’t let me give her any of her favourite things to talk about, experience again, to help her memory return. Phone calls didn’t work that well with Mum, either, at that point, because she was a bit ‘away with the fairies’ – she couldn’t see me to trigger more recognition. They also got annoyed with me when I tried to call her each day.
“And, she was receiving no rehabilitation,” says Nici, who has been a Healthcare assistant herself for several years. “They just wheeled her out into the lounge and sat her in front of the TV all day. No one knew her. No one really interacted with her. We were going crazy with frustration and worry,” she says.
But the crunch really came when the Government enforced the vaccine passports in early December 2021.
The rest home now did not allow Evan and Nici to visit his Mum at all, because they were not vaccinated. The home had given her the second vaccination by then, but they would not even take her out into the garden in a wheelchair, so she could spend time with them away from other people. They both knew she badly needed family around her to enable her recovery.
Evan, once again, pleaded with them to allow a face-to-face visit if he and Nici got a negative “spit test”. Eventually, the rest home relented, and finally, weeks later on 28th January, 2022, after paying $230 for the negative spit test which was valid for only one day, and a lot of hassle to be granted “a slot” in the rest home’s busy routine, they were granted one visit. They were told they could see Mum for 20 mins this time.
At reception, when Evan and Nici arrived at the door, they were stunned when the Head Nurse saw them and announced loudly, “Oh, here’s the unvaccinated!”
They were actually allowed to sit on the verandah with Mum this time, but were instructed to stay two metres apart.
“I thought, ‘To hell with this!’ ” says Evan, “and gave Mum the biggest hug, sat down right next to her, and we stayed for over two hours!”
Evan has continually tried since to contact the Manager about further visits, but his requests are being ignored. And that’s nearly another month now during which Mum has had no contact with family.
“If all the staff at that rest home are fully vaccinated, and all the residents are also fully vaccinated, why are they worried about a couple of healthy individuals – who have tested negative for covid – talking to their own Mum out in the garden? We’ll happily stay out of their building, and there’s no threat to them when we’re all outside,” says Evan.
So, that’s why Evan and Nici had joined the Convoy, called Freedom Village, asking the Government to stop the vaccine mandates – because some organisations are over-reacting with their control over people’s lives and hurting families, causing deep, unnecessary grief and harm, to young and old.
Evan and Nici state they are not against vaccination, and they’re not anti-establishment or anything political.
“We just want the return of our basic human rights over our own body, and those in our family who we care for, so we can return to caring properly for my gorgeous old Mum,” says Evan.
Evan and Nici were members of the original Convoy group which travelled south from Northland and north from Southland, arriving at Parliament buildings in Wellington, on Tuesday, 8th February. They returned home after 15 days in support of Freedom Village, to attempt to solve the distressing situation with Evan’s Mum.
Image Credit: Storyblocks.com